Arnaldo Soto Jr., chairman and CEO of AQST Space Systems Group, announces the relocation of their facilities to Arizona with headquarters in Mesa and secured manufacturing in Yuma. The company will be moving into the Joe Foss Hangar at the Yuma International Airport. He made the announcement during a General Aviation social on Wednesday at the airport.
An aerospace firm will move to Yuma this year. AQST Space Systems Group has announced plans to relocate its secured manufacturing into the Defense Contractor Complex at the Yuma International Airport.
AQST provides strategic planning to the space and defense industry in the areas of satellites, space systems, artificial intelligence and robotics.
The company will bring 200 manufacturing jobs to Yuma, City Administrator Greg Wilkinson said.
With the 10-year lease already signed, AQST is expected to move into the Joe Foss Hangar in the next few weeks and become operational before the end of the year.
When the company decided it wanted to move from Puerto Rico to Arizona, they reviewed the entire state and chose Mesa for its headquarters, citing confidence in the local higher education system.
But AQST also needed a secured manufacturing site. They looked at Flagstaff, Camp Navajo and Yuma and ultimately picked the Yuma County Airport Authority’s Defense Contractor Complex.
Arnaldo Soto Jr., chairman and CEO, explained how the decision came about in a statement released Thursday. “The AQST team visited Yuma in early August to meet with Yuma’s leadership, military representatives, higher education, economic development and airport officials. The team was very pleased to learn about Yuma’s friendly business environment, turnkey facilities and infrastructure and the support available at the airport, with a veteran transition program for employment and opportunities to develop degree programs in support of our operations.”
Soto first made the announcement during a General Aviation social at the airport Wednesday night. He thanked the Yuma 50 group and Yuma County Chamber of Commerce for welcoming him and noted that the area’s long history of defense and military testing, military facilities and access to Yuma Proving Ground made the decision to move to Yuma “easy.”
He also highlighted Yuma’s proximity to California, Texas and Mexico, all of which can be reached within a day. He said the manufacturing facility would be up “in the coming weeks.”
Airport Director Gladys Brown noted, “The airport built the Defense Contractor Complex to encourage businesses such as AQST to come to Yuma and take advantage of the resources available within this region of the state.”
She thanked the city, Yuma County and military installations for helping recruit AQST.
AQST is following in NASA’s footprints at the DCC. The airport currently provides facility support to the team testing parachutes for the NASA Orion Space Program at YPG.
While providing 70 years of testing services for the military, YPG also provides custom testing for other agencies, governments and private companies developing defense and space-related technologies.
“We are excited to have AQST here in Yuma while working with our partners in Mesa. This is a recipe of success for AQST as well as the whole state,” Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls said.
“We’ve been working on bringing aerospace industries to Yuma for a while and this one was a very good find. It’s a good, reliable company. It’s good for Yuma,” Wilkinson said.
Nicholls pointed out that Arizona as a whole has been working together to attract the defense and space industries. “If it starts going that direction, it will help the economy not just of the state but locally.”
In the statement, Mesa Mayor John Giles said, “This is the way Arizona does business. Building upon each community’s strengths across the state makes Arizona an intensely strong competitor for any high-tech company like AQST.”
Nicholls said the “find” can be traced back to a trip to Washington, D.C., by Arizona officials that included Nicholls and Julie Engel, president and CEO of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. The group’s mission was to promote the state’s network of defense industry assets and resources to attract the aerospace industry.
“We talked about the defense industry in our state and how we work together,” he said, adding that they also highlighted the state’s resources such as its universities and military installations.
AQST had been looking at Arizona and Florida. “Somehow (Soto) got ahold of the information that we were doing this in D.C. and came to visit Arizona,” Nicholls said. “He was very excited about the area. He sees great potential of growth for the industry.
“It was a natural fit,” Nicholls added, noting that every year 800 Marines exit the military in Yuma. They usually have high clearance and the expertise to work in the aerospace and hi-tech industries. This potentially gives firms the needed labor pool to operate in Yuma.
It also fits the Yuma University Campus concept that the mayor champions; such a university could provide the higher education needed by hi-tech industries.
Nicholls credited Brown and the airport staff for being “instrumental in clearly communicating the resources they have and what they have done for groups like NASA.” He added that GYEDC and the Marine Corps Air Station also played a “big part” in recruiting the firm.
“It’s the first of many to come,” Nicholls said.